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BAD NEWS BEARS

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  July 5, 2012 — 2 Comments

An oddity of dispensationalism’s premillennialism is that it spends more time discussing the terrifying seven year Great Tribulation that it does the glorious Thousand Year reign of Christ. By doing this it dwells on a brief aside in history (the seven year Tribulation) rather than history’s supposed long-term goal (the Millennium). It lingers longer over the time of the Antichrist than the time of Christ. It dwells on the dispensationally unclassifiable era of the Tribulation, which occurs after the Dispensation of Grace (the Church Age) and before the Dispensation of the Kingdom (the Millennial Age).

This focus on the negative is largely due to the intensely exciting nature of the judgments in the Tribulation period. Bad news sells. And it sells well. Read the newspapers. You will find more stories on criminals purse-snatching from little old ladies than on Boy Scouts helping them across the street (the little old ladies, not the criminals). Woody Allen once commented that he saw three men beating up an old lady. He mused to himself that it was not that long ago when that job would have taken only one thug. But I digress.

In dispensationalism the good news takes a back seat to the bad news; the Tribulation trumps the Millennium in the minds and hearts of dispensationalists. When was the last time a dispensationalist wrote a series on the millennium, such as Called Ahead? Or a paperback titled The Future Great Planet Church? In fact, Dispensationalism’s brand of premillennialism even emphasizes the Tribulation in its distinctive theological self-classification: it holds to pre-tribulational premillennialism. Ryrie even notes that premillennialism is not a sine qua non of dispensationalism (Dispensationalism [Chicago: Moody, 1995], 38).

Consider Hal Lindsey’s literary output by way of example. He has written several best-selling works with such titles as:

The Late Great Planet Earth (he has not written The Future Great Planet Church)

Satan is Alive and Well On Planet Earth (he has not written Satan Will Be Bound 1000 Years)

The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon (he has not written 1987: The Beginning of the Millennium)

The Final Battle (he has not written The Beginning of Peace)

The Terminal Generation (he has not written The Glory Generation)

Planet Earth: The Final Chapter (he has not written: Planet Earth: The Glory Chapter)

Planet Earth 2000: Will Mankind Survive? (He has not written: Planet Earth 2007: The Millennium will Insure Mankind’s Survival)

Apocalypse Code (he has not written Millennium Code)

Blood Moon (he has not written There Will Be No Need of the Sun


Besides their incredible marketing strategy (bad news sells — it does not matter how many times you miss calls for the Rapture), dispensationalism has an inherent theological principle that moves them to produce such works. That theological principle is: Satan wins in history before Christ comes to settle the score. Their theology holds that the fall of Adam is more powerful than the resurrection of Christ for altering history.

Only the Return of Christ — not his resurrection — holds out hope for a future, discontinuous history.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

2 responses to BAD NEWS BEARS

  1. Gordon Graham July 5, 2012 at 6:30

    You have also clearly and exegetically exposed the error of the dispensationalist theory as based on the misreading of both prophecies of Daniel’s 70 weeks and the Lord’s Olivet discourse. The concept of a future 7-year tribulation period itself is unbiblical.

    Praise God for your ministry and that of others to have spared me from the pernicious error of that mindset! Let us actively and confidently look to the triumph of the sovereign, enthroned Lord Jesus Christ and His church over all opponents in time and history.

  2. William Donelson July 5, 2012 at 6:30

    Greetings and thank you for this fine food-for-thought article! This is an example of how much a worldview matters! If one holds to a certain worldview…then ones thinking tends to see everything through that filter…even the future. The real challenges are in unlearning what one currently follows, and being teachable from outside of ones own worldview ‘box.’ Thanks again and keep up the feeding of the flock. WBD

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